MY Will Be Done: Part I
Last Friday was a better than average parenting day. I had an unexpected early day off, so my mind quickly leapt from one idea to the next of what I could do with 2 hours of free time. Confession: Idea #1 was NAPTIME. I also considered selecting one of my kids at random and surprising them with a Mommy Date, but that didn't feel right for the day either.
I texted our au pair that I would be home early, and that instead of bathtime and PJs, she should lather them in sunscreen and fill water bottles. Less than 2 miles from our house is a relatively simple wooded hike, where I had been wanting to take them for a while.
I was so impressed with my little crew. Kid #1 (age 6) was the navigator, and helped us decide which way to turn at trail intersections. He was right all except one time. Lisa, our au pair, was second in line. I came next with #4 (age 1) strapped to my back and #3 (age 3) holding my hand. His little legs were amazing! I literally did not have to slow my pace once. He was particularly enthralled with the "stick stairs", which was his term for the convenient steps that the tree roots provided on the steeper sections. Kid #2 (age 4) brought up the rear, along with an EIGHT FOOT TALL DEAD TREE that he dragged for over 1/2 a mile of steep terrain. He did complain about the pace twice, which we pointed out might not be so difficult to maintain if he dropped his tree. "Mommy, I like my stick." So the "stick" stayed with him. And that was that.
After 2 miles (round trip) of hiking, and a healthy dose of playground romping, we headed home for dinner. Later that night, I posted a mom brag on Facebook:
Which brings us to the point of this post. A friend commented, "Teach me your ways," and a few others chimed in too.
That got me thinking about what it was that made Friday such a distinctly good day. Because in my 6.5 years of mothering thus far, I've certainly had an abundance of distinctly bad days. The element of surprise, the sense of adventure, the physical exertion, and accomplishing a unified goal all led to my feelings of contentment and gratitude. But why, after 2 miles of hill-climbing (and tree-dragging) did they choose to exert themselves even more with a cardio workout and a 3-on-1 back massage? Well, I think they wanted to make me happy and proud.
Children are simple creatures. By my observation (both as a mother and as a pediatrician), kids' behavior is most dramatically shaped by two factors:
- The actions of those immediately around them, and
- A desire for praise and affirmation.
We've all seen this first one. How do we teach a non-verbal 10-month-old to play peekaboo? We demonstrate it (repeatedly). Why do we have to watch our language in the presence of little ears? So our kindergartener doesn't shout profanities on the playground. Children are designed to mimic exactly what they see around them. Raise your hand if this fact has humbled you as a parent a time or two. *raises hand*
I assert that the second factor is equally potent and important in the process of healthy and productive behavior manipulation (i.e. parenting). So that's exactly what we'll dive into next time.